Sixth graders discuss climate change with world polar bear capital

CLIMATE CHAT: Students at Big Rapids Middle School celebrated Earth Day with a Skype conversation with middle school students from the polar bear capital of the world, Churchill, Manitoba. (Pioneer photo/Adam Gac)

CLIMATE CHAT: Students at Big Rapids Middle School celebrated Earth Day with a Skype conversation with middle school students from the polar bear capital of the world, Churchill, Manitoba. (Pioneer photo/Adam Gac)

BIG RAPIDS — Students at Big Rapids Middle School celebrated Earth Day with an international conversation about climate change.

The sixth-grade class of BRMS used Skype to talk with a group of fifth graders from Duke of Marlboro Middle School in Churchill, Manitoba. Churchill is the polar bear capital of the world, but it may not be for long – climate change is reducing the ice on Hudson Bay and subsequently altering the bears’ hunting habits. The digital conversation was an “awesome” international experience for the Big Rapids students, according to teacher Mark Brejcha.

“It was exciting. I think the Big Rapids students are going to consider Canada their friend – if there’s anything in their future that has to do with Canada, I think they’ll be excited about it,” he said.

“It was pretty cool,” said student Luke Zhu. “It felt pretty amazing to talk with people in another country who are so far away.”

The idea of the international talk was inspired by “The Journey Home,” a movie about a mother polar bear and her cub that prominently features Churchill. The conversation helps encourage a global perspective the movie laid the groundwork for, according to Marty Aldrich, BRMS dean of students.

“Kids don’t know this other world. For a lot of them, their home is this place they see and that’s it,” he said. “To see these people exist in a far-off place that was in a movie helps make the connection that climate change is a real thing.”

There has been a steady increase in temperatures in Churchill during the past 100 years, according to Duke of Marlboro fifth-grade teacher Meaghan Wlock.

“As it continues to warm and we have these warm winters, it affects the people who rely on trapping,” she said. “When people set their traps, they put bait in it so the animals will go in. When there is a warm winter, it’s easier for animals to find food and they’re not going into the traps.”

The warming weather also affects the polar bear population, Wlock said.

“If it gets to be too warm here, the polar bears will have to move further north,” she said.

Amina Masoud said the experience gave her a better idea of how climate change impacts people outside of Big Rapids.

“For the people in Churchill, climate change is a big deal. It affects the people there and their animals,” she said. “Here, we’ve been having good weather, but it’s different there.”

Max Daday said he liked learning about beluga whales – one of the students from Manitoba told a story about the whales swimming underneath their family’s boat while they were on Hudson Bay.

“It felt really cool using something I talk to my friends with to talk to people in a different country,” he said. “It felt kind of surreal.”

avatar

Posted by Adam Gac

Adam is the Pioneer City/County Reporter, covering government in Mecosta County. He can be reached by e-mail at agac@pioneergroup.com or by phone at (231) 592-8347.

Leave a Reply